Two Problems With the Scientific Study of Astrology

July 2010

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In the 1950s, when Michel Gauquelin, John Addey and a tiny handful of others were beginning their research, there were virtually no studies available that had put astrology to a scientific test. Today there are at least 100 studies published in psychological journals and 400 in astrological journals, “equivalent to about 200 man-years of scientific research” (2). Some of these studies were conducted by scientists; some by astrologers; some were obviously biased; some were not. In nearly every single case, astrology has failed the test to which it was put. According to a summary by Wikipedia, these studies “have repeatedly failed to demonstrate statistically significant relationships between astrological predictions and operationally-defined outcomes. Effect size tests of astrology-based hypotheses conclude that the mean accuracy of astrological predictions is no greater than what is expected by chance” (3). Anyone who objectively reviews the research to date will see that this is true.

The one piece of scientific evidence that has stood the statistical test against an unrelenting half-century onslaught of criticism is the controversial Mars effect, documented extensively by Michel Gauquelin in 1955. This is a mighty wobbly statistical peg on which to hang our scientific hat. In the end, most researchers reviewing the available scientific studies as a whole form pretty much the same conclusion as Michel Gauquelin himself, who said, "The casting of horoscopes provides a living to thousands of individuals and provides dreams to an infinitely larger number of consumers. ... [But] since the most painstaking studies have shown the inanity of horoscopes, there should be a strong rising up against this exploitation of public credulity" (4).

Gauquelin drew this conclusion in 1979, after analyzing the horoscopes of 16,000 famous people. If the preeminent scientific researcher among us has dismissed astrology on scientific grounds, after conducting extensive scientific research, then how can we continue to pretend that science will ultimately validate astrology? Despite the brisk reality check of research to date, and the conclusions of serious researchers such as Gauquelin, there are those among us who still insist that with better, more sophisticated or more lenient or less biased research models, we can still prove the validity of astrology scientifically. I, for one, do not believe this is ever going to happen.

The next post in this series is Astrology Yields Subjective Truth, Science Demands Objectivity.

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